Saturday, 28 February 2009

Comics What Are Great #1 - Hellblazer

In honour of the imminent release of the comicbook fan's comicbook film (Watchmen, in case you're not up on your film/comic related news), the next selection of posts will be comics-related (so you can't say I haven't given you advance warning if you feel like skipping these ones and coming back when something else floats your bloggy boat*), More specifically, they're mainly going to be about the non-superhero comics out there that are dearest to me (with possibly one atypical superhero title thrown in along the way for good measure). Let's start with the first adult comic that I started reading way back in the day when I first started getting into American comics**

Title:- Hellblazer

In a nutshell:- Chain-smoking, demon-baiting magician John Constantine always pulls a fats one on the forces of evil but will lose his friends along the way...

The Basics:- Created by comics legend Alan Moore (who wrote the original Watchmen graphic novel as well), Constantine was originally only a supporting character in Swamp Thing which Moore was writing at the time. It quickly became apparent that there was more to this sarcastic trenchcoat-wearing chain-smoker and he soon span off into his own title - a title which is still running today and is the longest running of any of DCs mature titles (252 issues as of this month and still going strong).

Why's It So Good?:- Because Constantine's not a simple character. He's willing to be the bastard and to sacrifice others, sometimes for the greater good but more often than not just to save his own skin. There's still a charm and sense of humour about him, though, combined with some genuine decency that prevents him from being just an unlikeable monster. It's this ambiguity and contradictory nature that keeps him intriguing even after 21 years.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish?:- Sadly, yes, that can be the case. Because it's the sort of title that shifts from writer to writer, you can get periods where the character just isn't handled as well. For me, the lowest point was American writer Brian Azzarello who just didn't seem to get what made the character tick and turned him into something unrecognisable for two and a half years. Fortunately, they rotate writers fairly frequently so it's always worth sticking with as someone better may (and usually does) come along.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- Yes, but be selective where you start on this one. My recommendation would be the run by Irish writer Garth Ennis (more on him tomorrow) which is where I started - start with the first storyline, Dangerous Habits*** and work your way through his run. Highly recommended.

Tomorrow's title:- Preacher

* Float Your Bloggy Boat, of course, being the Eurovision entry from Norway in 1977. Nul points.

** Having been a confirmed 2000AD reader from the age of about 7.

*** Which was completely butchered and mangled by Hollywood into something unrecognisable to make the atrocious Constantine with Keanu Reeves.


Anna Russell said...

Oooh, oooh, oooh! I just went into geek excitement zone.

Hellblazer is awesome - John Constantine is such a complex character. My favourite part is the one with the Devil's secret.

Keanu Reeves????? That did not give me happy.

And Preacher tomorrow? It's all just too much!

That Baldy Fella said...

I think you may well like the upcoming Geek Week. That's one reader happy at least....

I may have to start re-reading Hellblazer. Although if I pile any books and comics on the bedside table, it may collapse...